A refugee of Kim Jong-Il’s regime, Yeonmi Park has become an unlikely mouthpiece for the 25 million living on the very edge, in a place shrouded in darkness–literal and metaphysical. It is a nation predicated on fear, misinformation, and torture; a place that asks its citizens for absolute devotion, even as it executes them indiscriminately.
The Establishment sat down with North Korean defector Yeonmi to discuss her newfound activism and the painful realities of penning her memoir. In person, she is a portrait of grace and composure, possessing a preternatural wisdom for any 22 year old.
Elaborating on the plight of her fellow North Koreans and the global community’s obligation to them, she becomes quietly insistent: “These people, they don’t even know they have rights and I think it should be stopped. If we allow this to happen, it makes us less human, that’s what I believe. We have to fight, we have to educate the public, we have to tell their story, we have to ask North Korea to stop killing its own people…
“And we have to tell China that they cannot send these refugees back to their country–they are actually committing a crime by this; they’re helping North Korea and killing these people.”
Yeonmi Park’s childhood reads like the kind of fiction best-suited for sadists, marked by starvation, the execution of a friend’s mother, the imprisonment of her father, human trafficking, and chronic sexual violence.
Her story is also a tale of triumph–of a victory as formidable as the darkness that threatens to tamp it out forever. It is not a tale of good conquering evil–for the evil still thrives, with North Korea a prison kingdom of the first degree. But it is a story that reminds us of the strength of the human spirit. Read more